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Rep. Baca Leads Historic Hearing on Federal Nutrition Policies

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The public was invited and the room at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center was filled to capacity to hear Subcommittee Chair Congressman Joe Baca along with Congressmen Jim Costa and Jeff Fortenberry convene a 'field' hearing of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. The focus of attention for the hearing was on food, nutrition, obesity and related health issues.

The hearing marked a historic moment – the first time a House Commit tee has ever held a Subcommittee hearing in California’s 43rd Congressional District. The hearing examined the current state of California’s participation in federal feeding programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – the new name for the Food Stamp program).

A particular focus was also placed on the issue of obesity, and its relation to poor participation rates in federal nutrition programs.

“Less than half of all eligible Californians are current ly enrolled to receive SNAP benefits,” said Rep. Baca. “This poor participation rate costs California nearly $7 billion annually in lost economic activity! We must explore every avenue to promote public health and increase participation in these critical programs.” “Obesity related health spending has doubled in the past decade to reach a high of $147 billion annually,” continued Rep. Baca. “If nothing is done to change this trajectory, it is estimated obesity will cost our nation $1 trillion by the year 2030. We must act decisively to stop this oncoming crisis and create healthier communities across our nation.

Today’s hearing was an excellent opportunity to hear from experts at the local, state, and national level on ways to increase participation rates for nutrition programs and to better educate the public on healthy lifestyles.”

Gwen Knotts, Knotts Family Agency stated, “it was informative and interesting. To know how much revenue is lost for the lack of use of food stamps. It is important to find avenues to market them by using Black and Latino newspapers, faith-based community, linkages and getting the word out in regard to their availability.”

Many African Americans felt that the only downside to the hearing was that there was no Black participation on the panel so all voices were not heard.

Cheryl Brown contributed to this article.

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